20 Great Things to do in Swansboro, North Carolina

Last Updated on September 8, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

Swansboro, North Carolina, is an adorable historic small town in Onslow County, located along the Intracoastal Waterway and White Oak River. It’s just a short distance between Jacksonville, Emerald Isle, and Atlantic Beach, but all the fun things to do in Swansboro will help you forget about its neighbors.

Dubbed the “Friendly City by the Sea,” Swansboro has a small but mighty downtown. With more than 40 shops and restaurants and plenty of outdoor activities, you’ll find there is no better time to visit than now.

Embark on a sunset cruise, chow down on fresh and delicious seafood, and shop until you drop; Swansboro is a charming town with a lot to offer!

In this article, we will detail:

  • Seasonal Events in Swansboro
  • Things to do in Swansboro (Including Shopping and History)
  • Outdoor Things to Do in Swansboro
  • Restaurants in Swansboro
  • Where To Stay
  • Nearby Places!

This post is part of our series on Onslow County and more of our favorite places to visit in Eastern North Carolina. We think a visit to Swansboro is one of the best things to do in North Carolina! It’s also one of our favorite day trips from Raleigh.

Seasonal Events

June: During the second weekend of June, Swansboro holds its “Arts By The Sea” annual festival. The event attracts art lovers from across the state for a juried exhibition of photography, home decor, paintings, jewelry, and pottery.

July: What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than along the waterfront? Swansboro bustles with families and friends for live music and a fantastic display of fireworks.

October: Every October, Swansboro celebrates the mullet. No, not the business in the front/party in the back kind of mullet… The mullet fish!

In October, so many mullet swim up and down the North Carolina coast that Swansboro decided to turn it into a festival. Enjoy live music, vendors, events, and, of course, some delicious mullet!

Christmas: Sure, you’ve been to a Christmas parade, but have you been to a Christmas Flotilla? The Friday after Thanksgiving, Swansboro’s boats parade out along the water, framed by lights and festive cheer.

Year-Round Things to Do in Swansboro

Clyde Phillips Seafood Market

Things to Do in Swansboro NC

Clyde Phillips Seafood Market has been selling seafood to locals since 1954, so you know they offer only the best. Find fresh flounder, shrimp, crabs, clams, and more to take back home for a fantastic meal!

Candy Edventure

Candy Edventure things to do in Swansboro NC

What better way to hop back in time than with candy? At Candy Edventure, you’ll do just that.

The walls are filled with sweets from yesteryear, as well as new and exciting confections to try. The prices are reasonable, and we guarantee you’ll find something here that makes you go, “Ah! Remember these?”

Poor Man’s Hole

Poor Mans Hole Swansboro NC

One of our favorite things to do in Swansboro is to wander the aisles of Poor Man’s Hole. This nautically-themed little shop is filled with antiques, doodads, and vintage memorabilia.

Find fun items from pirates to ship lamps and say hello to the owner, Joe! 

More Shopping in Swansboro

For such a small town, Swansboro is packed with great shops! Whether you’re looking for gifts at The Mercantile or trying on beautiful outfits at Lovely’s Boutique, there are plenty of places to browse (and buy!) on Front Street.

Stop by Through the Looking Glass and don’t forget to say “Hello!” to Betty at Lighthouse Boutique. Of all the things to do in Swansboro, shopping is a must! 

Outdoor Things to do in Swansboro

Bicentennial Park

Sunrise in Swansboro NC

Located next to NC-24 is Bicentennial Park, an absolute gem. This large green space is right along the water, equipped with a boardwalk from downtown.

There are plenty of swing benches with amazing views, especially if you’re watching the sunrise. You will often see anglers along the boardwalk as it is a great place to fish from.

Otway Burns Swansboro

At the center of the park, there’s a statue honoring Otway Burns, a privateer (legal pirate) during the War of 1812 turned North Carolina Senator.

Two North Carolina towns, Burnsville in Yancey County and Otway in Carteret County, are named for this Swansboro native.

Get on the Water

Boating in Swansboro NC

If you are looking for an outfitter in Swansboro, Pogie’s is your connection! They have plenty of boats for rent and host a variety of guided and unguided tours.

They have reasonable prices and a knowledgeable team. Whether you choose to kayak, SUP, fish, or cruise, Pogie’s is the place for you!

Sunset Cruise with Lady Swan Boat Tours

Lady Swan Things to do in Swansboro

Is there anything like watching the sunset over the water? Lady Swan Boat Tours offers the opportunity to climb aboard their 40′ vessel and enjoy a lovely evening on the water.

These tours leave from downtown Swansboro.

Walking History Tour

Historic Walking tour Things to do in Swansboro

Swansboro is a historic town that has seen quite a bit of change over the decades. Fortunately, there are detailed records of how life used to be like in this town. Take a historic walking tour with Ann, a lifelong Swansboroian whose family has resided in Swansboro for generations.

She’ll regale you with photos and stories that will warm your heart and help you understand this waterfront town better.

Dinner Cruise with Bayonet

Take a dinner cruise aboard the Bayonet! Captain Lance and Marilyn Ledoux run this private yacht charter that offers a luxurious meal paired with unique experiences.

Have Captain Lance organize a dinner cruise, family picnic, or overnight getaway so you can enjoy the waterways in luxury. 

Shelling on Bear Island with Marsh Cruises

Marsh Cruises Swansboro NC

Head out to Bear Island, part of Hammocks Beach State Park and one of the best beaches, for excellent shelling. While on the island (which you’ll probably have all to yourself), you can search for shells, sand dollars, and shark’s teeth!

Our experience with Marsh Cruises was one of the best we’ve ever had on a boat. Captain Darryl will show you a side of Swansboro that you never knew existed!

After we were done shelling at Bear Island, Captain Darryl took us around the Intracoastal waterway to a sandbar in the middle of the water.

Bear Island Swansboro NC

The tide was just low enough that we could walk out on the sandbar and search for whelk. We had so much fun that Charlotte ran herself tired!

Hammocks Beach State Park

Bear Island Hammocks Beach State Park

Speaking of Bear Island, it’s part of Hammocks Beach State Park, a beautiful piece of land. From the Visitor Center, you can take the State Park‘s passenger ferry or launch your own/rented kayak to reach Bear Island.

There are several water trails here, including Bear Inlet Trail, a 6-mile one-way paddle trail.

Hammocks Beach State Park

In addition to the water trails, there are several Coastal forest trails at Hammocks Beach State Park. As this park continues to develop and expand, more trails and activities are being added, and we are excited to see the progress!

Have a Drink at Bake Bottle Brew

Bake Bottle Brew things to do in Swansboro NC

Bake Bottle and Brew was our first stop in Swansboro several years ago, and I can remember exactly why. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and all I wanted was a glass of wine overlooking the water–and Bake Bottle and Brew delivered! 

As the name suggests, they have everything needed for beer, wine, and coffee aficionados with a gorgeous waterfront back deck.

Where to Eat in Swansboro

With more than 40 shops and restaurants, there are plenty of delicious places to eat in Swansboro. For breakfast, head to Yana’s for an amazing fruit fritter or Ye Old Riverwalk for pancakes.

Low Country Kitchen Restaurants in Swansboro NC

After you’ve worked up an appetite out on the water, try lunch at The Boro or a seafood boil at Boro Low Country Kitchen.

Saltwater Grill restaurants in Swansboro

Dinner reservations must be made for a table overlooking the water at Saltwater Grill. Their signature dish, Angels on Horseback, features bacon-wrapped scallops and shrimp over crab meat with a lobster cream risotto.

With so much seafood goodness on one plate, you won’t regret dining here!

Many of these great places to eat also feature in our guide covering restaurants in Jacksonville and Onslow County!

Where to Stay

There are some cool and unique places to stay in Swansboro. A Hampton Inn & Suites sits off NC-24 and is just a short drive from downtown.

If you’d like something closer, we were hosted by Visit Swansboro at Downtown Swanny, a refurbished former icehouse located above Boro Low Country Boil. Hook, Wine, and Sinker is another option along the water and bookable via VRBO.

Visit Swansboro has listed a few more hotels and inns here, including accommodations along the waterfront and nearby.

Places Nearby

While it’s true that you can continue on NC-24 into Carteret County, for this section, we’re going to focus on Swansboro’s Onslow County neighbors.


Jacksonville is the hub of Onslow County and well-known for the military presence at Camp Lejeune. Visit Lejeune Memorial Gardens, go shopping at Saigon Sams, and check out Sturgeon City’s educational programs.

We’ve covered many more things to do in Jacksonville and hope you’ll spend at least a little bit of time here!

Mike’s Farm

Mikes Farm restaurants in Jacksonville NC

Mike’s Farm puts on dinner shows and events and has some of the best country cookin’ we’ve ever had! Spend a day at the farm and hang out the goats, chickens, peacocks, and all the other animals before heading inside for a family-style meal.

While waiting for your table, spend some time browsing their country store and checking out the bakery. If you happen to find a pastry that tickles your fancy, enjoy it on the front porch rocking chair with the cool North Carolina breeze in your face.

We shared more about our time at Mike’s Farm here.

Huffman Vineyards

Huffman Vineyards is also an excellent place to enjoy the beautiful countryside of Onslow County. The family-owned and operated vineyard features a wide array of wines suitable for all palates.

Feeding chickens at Huffman Vineyards

From sweet Eastern North Carolina wines to a dry muscadine, this family-friendly winery is in a beautiful location. They even have chickens that the kids can feed while you enjoy a glass of wine.

Ready to Enjoy These Things to Do in Swansboro and Beyond?

Swansboro is a charming small town with a lot of unique and fun activities. Whether you are spending time on the water, shelling on Bear Island, or eating fresh and delicious seafood, there are limitless things to do in Swansboro!

This town makes for a truly wonderful NC vacation.

Have you ever visited this lovely spot in Onslow County? If so, what are your favorite things to do in Swansboro? If not, which of these fun activities will you be doing first?

More Things to Do in Onslow County

More Things to Do in Eastern North Carolina

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